WASHINGTON – The Biden administration said Thursday Mexico has agreed to cooperate on restarting the Migrant Protection Protocols policy as long as the U.S. takes key steps to address Mexico’s human rights concerns with the controversial, Trump-era program.
The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, forces asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they await U.S. immigration proceedings. Though the Biden administration is seeking to end the program, it was forced to restart the program to comply with a court order.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would make humanitarian changes to the program before it is re-implemented, including providing COVID-19 vaccinations for migrants, committing to concluding proceedings within six months of an individual’s return to Mexico, and expanding the categories for potential exemption from the program to include particularly vulnerable people like those with physical and mental health challenges.
Migrants will also have access to communicate with counsel before and during immigration court proceedings, according to a DHS statement.
Mexico confirmed the deal in a statement.
“The government of Mexico has decided that, due to humanitarian reasons and in a temporary manner, it will not return to their countries of origin certain migrants who have an appointment before an immigration judge in the United States to seek asylum in that country,” the statement read.
The program was created in 2018 under the Trump administration. President Joe Biden suspended the policy shortly after taking office in January and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas terminated the policy in June.
But the administration was forced to restart the program after a federal judge ruled Mayorkas “failed to show a reasoned decision” for ending the program.
The U.S. Supreme Court in August denied a request by the administration to stay a lower court order requiring it to restart the policy – essentially forcing the administration to resume the policy. The Supreme Court ruling did not address the policy’s legality.
Contributing: Rebecca Morin, Rafael Carranza